Friday 20 February 2015

Noah's art - how I personalised a child's hoodie with appliqué

     In my last blog I created a toddler dress from scratch, for this blog however I’ll be describing how I customised an existing piece of clothing, something that can be a little quicker and easier for beginners like myself but just as satisfying at the end.
Finished hoodie
  • This hoodie was for a little boy called – surprisingly – Noah. However, I didn’t want to go for the typical Noah’s Ark themed fabric and instead found this fabulous Michael Miller Manscaping fabric on eBay (it reminded me of Noah’s dad’s beard and specs!) and ordered the equivalent of three fat quarters.
     For those not in the know fat quarters (FQ) are the rectangles of fabric bought by crafters who don’t want metres and metres of a single fabric and instead buy smaller ‘squares’ where a metre (or yard) of the fabric has been cut into quarters. Many fabric shops now sell highly decorated fabrics only by quantities of FQ, giving the equivalent of the relevant area of multiple FQs in a single piece, which was ideal for me as I didn’t need a full metre’s worth but did want slightly more than half a metre.
  • Once I’d picked this trim fabric (and put it through the wash to eliminate any loose dye or shrinking problems) I could decide the colour hoodie to go with it and settled on a simple khaki design from eBay. Because the fabric was the star of the show I wanted to let the design itself do all the talking and keep the embellishments quite simple. So, using leftover Christmas wrapping paper, I made a rough pattern piece to make a single fabric panel to attach to the back and then pattern pieces to spell out ‘NOAH’ across the front of the hoodie. 
Working out a template
Making a pattern
  •  Wrapping paper isn’t the best to work with because it’s quite liable to tearing but it did the job, I just had to be extra careful when pinning the pattern pieces to the fabric not to let the paper rip. I then marked the outline with tailor's chalk and cut out the shapes carefully with my special fabric scissors.
Cutting the back panel

Cutting the letters out

  • I decided to turn over all the edges of the back panel and stitch around the edge before attaching it to the hoodie so that all of the rough edges would be hidden. 
Back panel edges stitched under
  • Because I was working with readymade clothes rather than making items from scratch I actually tacked the fabric panel to the back of the hoodie rather than simply pinning it, this made it far easier to concentrate while attaching it with a simple straight stitch as I knew the panel wasn’t able to shift and pins weren’t going to fall out by mistake.
  • Once I’d done a straight stitch around the panel to secure it onto the hoodie I used a zigzag stitch to stop the edge of the panel from poking up, it also gave it a nice decorative finish too.
Back panel complete
  • Next I arranged the fabric letters on the front of the hoodie and tacked into position.
Detail of rough tacking

Letters carefully arranged

  • I used a simple straight stitch to secure each letter and then a zigzag stitch over the edge of each letter to help prevent the edges from fraying. Unfortunately, my little sewing machine at the time didn’t have many different stitch options so I couldn’t make the appliqué work as neat as I would have liked but I figured that little boys end up making all their clothes a bit scruffy anyway through hours of playtime (quite right too) so I shouldn’t worry too much.
  • I trimmed off any frayed edges that were showing around the edge of the letters through the zigzag stitching and then used a sewing needle to pull any loose threads back into the space between the hoodie and the fabric I’d added so they were safely hidden from view.
The front complete

The letters attached with some slightly rustic sewing
     I was really happy with the finished result as it was a very quick and simple way to make a personalised gift that is also practical. It was also a great way to have a first introduction to appliqué and it’s taught me lots of things so that I can keep on improving in the future.

All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

Thursday 19 February 2015

My first attempt at making a toddler dress

     As my previous blog outlined I’ve been very busy recently with various sewing projects – as frequently shown on my Twitter account – and have only now given myself time to sit and type up the stories of each piece. The green fabric with a pink floral print that a friend gave me was the catalyst for this new spate of sewing projects and as such the first item I made revolved around getting the most out of such a bold print. The green was so brilliant I decided to make all the other trimmings pink to help highlight the contrast between the two colours in the fabric.
Cotton mix fabric

     With only a limited amount of fabric I settled on making a simple pinafore style toddler dress. Rather than using a zip fastening – which can be difficult to stitch in correctly – I planned to incorporate button fastenings on the straps and under the arms to make it easy to get on and off (toddlers are not known for their patience during dressing routines), as well as ribbons secured in the side seams to tie at the back. I also decided to fully line the dress because lining has several purposes: it protects the wearer from rough seams against the skin, supports the garment’s shape, and it is also a handy way of keeping all the messy seams hidden from view! I took to eBay and ordered pink thread, pink 20mm acrylic round buttons and a metre of pink polycotton lining fabric, none of which were very expensive. I also ensured that I’d washed all fabric to be used as often, particularly with cotton, it requires a prewash as it can shrink the first time it hits a washing machine.

  • First things first though before I could put my slipper to the pedal was to design the dress and create a paper pattern. I took a few rough measurements from my toddler volunteer and then began sketching basic shapes and ideas.

My very rough sketches

  • Once I’d decided more or less what to do I found a roll of brown parcel paper leftover from posting Christmas presents and began sketching out shapes. I tried to keep it very simple so there is only one pattern piece for both the front and back, something that makes matching pieces together very easy. The pattern piece is also symmetrical down the centre, which again makes matching up very easy.

Initial design

Working out curved edges

  • After carefully cutting out the pattern piece I pinned it onto the fabric and then drew around the edge with tailors’ chalks so that when I cut out the fabric there was very little room for error. I did this twice with the green fabric and twice with the pink lining.

Fabric pieces and the paper pattern

  • Next, I pinned the right sides of the pieces together so the front green fabric and front lining were facing each other and the same again for the back pieces. This is where the first bit of sewing happened! I sewed the fabrics together along the top edge and down to where the button fastenings under the arms were, before trimming the seams to reduce bulk and then turning them the right side out to check they were correct.

Stitching together along the top edge and straps

  • The ribbon trim was the next thing to be added and I pinned and sewed the ribbon across the right side of the front piece of green fabric only.

Decorative waistband

  • This meant that the free pieces of ribbon that would tie at the back needed to be very carefully stitched between the front and back pieces of the green fabric in the side seams so that the ribbon across the front and the pieces that tied back all matched up. 

Attaching the free ribbon ties and securing side seams

  • Now, the front and back lining and front and back green fabric pieces had to be attached to each other so again I turned the fabric inside out so that the right sides were facing each other and then carefully pinned these before stitching the side seams.

  • At this point, once turned the right way, the dress was looking like a recognisable item, it just needed the hem securing, topstitching and the buttons finishing. Securing the hem on a fully lined dress is a little tricky, the lining needs to be perfectly matched up to the top fabric and then stitched right side to right side so that the seam will be hidden, this means all the dress will be ‘inside’ the wrong sides of the fabric, so a small gap must be left to bring all the fabric back through before tucking in the unsewn edges and carefully topstitching round the bottom hem on the right side to close the gap securely. 

The gap in the hem before stitching closed

  • It is also worth topstitching the completed neckline at this point too as it helps the fabric lie flat. 

Topstitching the neckline

  • Traditionally garments should be well ironed before any topstitching but I must say it is very rare for me to iron anything and I avoid it unless it’s absolutely essential! 

Finished but no buttons!

  • Finally, it’s time for buttons and buttonholes! Most modern sewing machines have a buttonhole function that makes them a whizz to complete but, alas, my machine didn’t have one so I had to hand stitch every buttonhole until it was secure. Ditto the buttons were hand secured but that isn’t quite such a time consuming business.

Slightly shabby but perfectly functioning button hole

Matching the thread and buttons

  • So after all that effort here’s the finished dress, and was I happy – very much so. 

The lining looking neat

Detail of back strap

Back of dress

Side seam and matched ribbons

Back of dress both straps

Front of dress

     With very little experience I had a go and made something wearable, and I can honestly say I’ve had lots of people ask me where the dress was from and I take such pride in saying I made it all myself. It may not be perfect, the seams may be a little squiffy in places for example, but it is totally unique, plus I now have the pattern made and stored for next time I want to make a similar dress!

All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!